Monday, June 14, 2021

THE MYSTERIOUS STONE SPHERES OF COSTA RICA:


Diquis Spheres, Costa Rica. Internet photograph, Public Domain.

Do you remember the giant stone sphere that almost crushes Indiana Jones at the beginning of the movie Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc? Well stone spheres much like it are real and are found in Costa Rica.

“On the small island of Isla del Caño and the Diquís Delta in Costa Rica are over 300 stone Petrospheres often referred to as the Diquís Spheres, that have been attributed to the now extinct Diquís culture. The Diquís culture emerged in the Valley of the Rio Grande de Terraba, where they established complex social, economic, and political systems to govern their society.” (Heritage Daily)

The Diquis culture encompassed southern Costa Rica and stretched into present day Columbia. (Marsden)

“Settlement of the region began during the Synancra period around 1,500 – 300 BC in the form of sedentary, small, and dispersed farming communities, which may have revolved around an egalitarian system with some levels of tribal organization.” (Heritage Daily)

They made use of the wheel on children’s toys, but apparently not otherwise. They were metal workers, working a gold-copper alloy they called Tumbaga made from local ores. (Marsden) The most impressive remains of the Duquis culture are the enigmatic stone spheres they created.


         Diquis Spheres, Costa Rica. Internet                  photograph, Public Domain.

“By the Aguas Buenas period between 300 BC – AD 800, the settlements developerks. During this period the earliest examples of sculptured stone appeared that includes stone cylinders, ‘barrels,’ spheres and depictions of characters.” (Heritage Daily)

“The spheres range in size from a few centimeters to over 2 meters (6.6 ft) in diameter, and weigh up to 15 tons. Most are sculpted from gabbro, the coarse-grained equivalent of basalt. There are a dozen or so made from shell-rich limestone, and another dozen made from sandstone.” (Wikipedia)


             Diquis Spheres, Costa Rica. Internet                  photograph,  Public Domain.

“They appear to have been made by hammering natural boulders with other rocks, then polishing with sand. The degree of finishing and precision of the working varies considerably. The gabbro came from sites in the hills, several kilometers away from where the finished spheres are found, though some unfinished spheres remain in the hills.” (Wikipedia)

“With the arrival of the Spanish to the region by the sixteenth century AD, no mention was given in contemporary accounts by the European explorers of large stone spheres in the communities they encountered.” (Heritage Daily)

The arrival of Spanish colonialism led to the disappearance of the Diquis culture, largely from smallpox and other introduced diseases, with the few survivors fleeing into the mountainous interior searching for safety. The main trace remaining of their advanced culture is the number of stone spheres found.

NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the original reports at the sites listed below.


REFERENCES:

Heritage Daily,2021, The Mysterious Stone Spheres of Costa Rica, Heritagedaily, https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/06/the-mysterious-stone-spheres-of-costa-rica/139375

Marsden, DavidDiques Culture, https://thecostaricanews.com/indigenous-culture-who-were-costa-ricas-diquis/

Wikipedia, Stone Spheres of Costa Rica, https://wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_spheres_of_Costa_Rica

Saturday, June 12, 2021

DISCOVERY OF THE FIRST REPRESENTATIONAL ROCK ART IN SCOTLAND:


The carvings are thought to be 4,000 to 5,000 years old.
Photograph: Santiago Arribas Pena/HES/PA.

While multitudes of cup and ring petroglyphs are known in the British Isles, up until now no representational images had been found in Scotland proper. The images were discovered by accident on the underside of the capstone on the Dunchraigaig cairn in Kilmartin Glen, Argyll. Available descriptions online seemingly vary reporting anywhere from one to three burial cists. “It measures 100’ in diameter and at S a slab 14’ x 8’4” x 1’3” resting on boulder walls to form a cist, 7’6” x 3’2” x 3’6”, which contained several deposits of burnt bones, separated from each other by small rough fragments of stone – the deposits of perhaps 8 or 10 bodies.” (Ordnance Survey 1977)


The layout of the carvings hidden inside Dunchraigaig cairn in Kilmartin Glen. Photograph: Historic Environment Scotland.

The carvings depict two male red deer and another three apparently does or young deer.

“Archaeologists estimate the carvings are between 4,000 and 5,000 years old, a period which spans the Neolithic and early bronze age, and are the first in the UK located alongside prehistoric cup and ring markings found throughout Kilmartin Glen.” (Carrell 2021)

“The deer were found by Hamish Fenton, an amateur archaeologist from Oxfordshire who was visiting the areal, and who was exploring Dunchraigaig cairn, a bronze age burial mound, one evening.” (Carrell 2021)

“After deciding to explore a burial cist on the side of the cairn, he slid inside with a torch. An archaeology graduate from Bournemouth University, Fenton spotted the delicate and unusual markings on the capstone, or cover, of the chamber.” (Carrell 2021)

What Fenton originally thought appeared to be a representation of a laurel wreath (as on a Roman statue) turned out to be the antlers of a stag, one of five deer portrayed in the composition on the underside of the capstone.


Dunchraigaig cairn, Internet photo, public domain.

“The cairn has been cordoned off to allow further surveys and preservation of the chamber, the site’s owners, Historic Environment Scotland, said on Monday. HES said its rock art project has already made detailed 3D scans and digital models of the carvings to allow the faint markings to be properly seen and studied. Dr. Tertia Barnett, the project’s principal investigator, said these were the first prehistoric animal carvings found in Scotland. Their figurative style also contradicted the assumption that British rock art of this date was mainly geometric.” (Carrell 2021)

A discovery that changes major assumptions – well done Hamish.


NOTE: Some images in this posting were retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on this report you should read the original report at the site listed below.

See a video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/eR4s80-ggiw

REFERENCES:

Carrell, Severin2021, Prehistoric Carvings of Red Deer Found in Scottish Neolithic Tomb, 31 May 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news

Ordnance Survey1977, Dunchraigaig, Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Revision Programme, https://canmore.org.uk/site/39455/dunchraigaig

Saturday, June 5, 2021

THE EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON THE PLEISTOCENE ROCK ART OF SULAWESI:


Warty pig pictograph, 45,000 year old painting, Leang-Tedongnge cave, Sulawesi, Indonesia. Internet photo, public domain.

It has only been a few months since the reports of the oldest known pictographs were reported in Sulawesi. As I wrote in my February 13 posting of this year (see below) “Rock art researchers in Indonesia have announced the discovery of another candidate for the oldest representative rock art image, a picture of a Sulawesi Warty Pig found in a cave on the island of Sulawesi. ‘The warty pig from Leang Tedongnge cave dates to at least 45,599 years ago, making it the earliest known representational work of art in the world. (Sci-News 2021) Leang Tedongnge cave: The cave is located at the foot of a limestone karst hill. – (The) rock art panel is located on a ledge toward the rear of the cave and features at least three large figurative paintings of pigs.’” (Faris 2021)

Here, we have hardly had time to appreciate the extreme estimated age of these wonderful images, when we are told that they are deteriorating, threatened by climate change. A new report from Sulawesi by Huntley, J., Aubert, M., Oktaviana, A.A. et al. explains that – “The equatorial tropics house some of the earliest rock art yet known, and it is weathering at an alarming rate. Here we present evidence for haloclasty (salt crystallization) from Pleistocene-aged rock art panels at 11 sites in the Maros-Pangkep limestone karsts of southern Sulawesi. We show how quickly rock art panels have degraded in recent decades, contending that climate-catalysed salt efflorescence is responsible for increasing exfoliation of the limestone cave surfaces that house the ~ 45 to 20-thousand-year-old paintings. These artworks are located in the world’s most atmospherically dynamic region, the Australasian monsoon domain. The rising frequency of El Niño-induced droughts from anthropogenic climate change (that is, higher ambient temperatures and more consecutive dry days), combined with seasonal moisture injected via monsoonal rains retained as standing water in rice fields and aquaculture ponds of the region, increasingly provide ideal conditions for evaporation and haloclasty, accelerating rock art deterioration.” (Huntley, J., Aubert, M., Oktaviana, A.A. et al. 2021:1)

“In almost all sites containing early art, the hand stencils and figurative motifs are heavily affected by exfoliation of the limestone cave wall/ceiling surfaces that comprise the artists’ ‘canvas’. The deposition of solutes (chiefly irons, silicones, and calcium carbonates) from the bedrock and surrounding environment concentrate and oxidise at the limestone’s surface, blocking pores to form a mineralized rind – a process known as case-hardening. The case-hardened surfaces of the Maros-Pangkep caves, co-created by biofilms including plentiful microbial mats, regulate water penetration on limestone surfaces, preventing rapid moisture uptake. While case-hardening makes the surface layer more resistant to weathering, the sub-surface zone immediately underneath is weakened by loss of cement matrices, the void spaces becoming susceptible to the accumulation of evaporites such as geological salts, especially where the outer crust has been breached.” (Huntley, J., Aubert, M., Oktaviana, A.A. et al. 2021:2)



This illustration from the report shows the extent of the problem. “Rate of salt-induced exfoliation affecting a figurative painting of a suid. This rock art motif is located at Leang Pattae, a limestone cave open to the public at Taman Prasejarah Leang-Leang, Maros-Pangkep. The artwork is undated but it was executed in the same artistic style used to depict animals during the Late Pleistocene rock art phase. Dark grey shading highlights the exfoliated areas documented in 1950. The light grey highlights exfoliated areas documented in 2013.” (Huntley, J., Aubert, M., Oktaviana, A.A. et al. 2021:4)

Here, in the western United States, rock exfoliation caused by alkali salts is well known, but it is really a shame that the destruction of the oldest rock art currently known in the world is being degraded by a natural process, prompted by human-driven climate change.

NOTE: An image in this posting was retrieved from the internet with a search for public domain photographs. If this image is not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the original reports at the sites listed below.


REFERENCES:

Faris, Peter, 2021, A New Candidate for the Oldest Pictograph – The Sulawesi Pig, February 13, 2021, https://rockartblog.blogspot.com

Huntley, J., Aubert, M., Oktaviana, A.A. et al.2021, The Effects of Climate Change on the Pleistocene Rock Art of Sulawesi, Science Reports 11, 9833 (2021), https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-921987923-3

Sci-News Staff, 2021, 45,000-Year-Old Sulawesi Warty Pig Painting Found in Indonesian Cave, January 14, 2021, http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/sulawesi-warty-pig-paintings-09250.html